F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a benefit for students on F-1 visas. It allows students to work off-campus in a job directly related to their major field of study. The purpose of OPT is for students to apply the knowledge and skills gained in the classroom to practical work experience in the U.S.

OPT is generally available for up to 12 months per degree level, as long as students progress in degree levels. (Example: A student earns a bachelor’s degree and uses 12 months of OPT. They return to school to earn a master’s and earn another 12 months of OPT).

ISS assists students with OPT by recommending work authorization on their I-20s. The OPT application is processed by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). Processing time can take up to 5 months, so it is important to apply early. USCIS allows students to apply for OPT up to 90 days before program completion. Students may apply for OPT before receiving a job offer.

ISS has a mandatory workshop for students to complete prior to applying for OPT. This is located in Terra Dotta.

More information can be found in the OPT Application Process section and by watching the introductory video below.

Eligibility Requirements

Who can apply for OPT and the types of practical training or employment you can accept.

 

Travel & OPT

Assess international travel risks before, during, and after OPT authorization.

 

When OPT Ends

Your options when your EAD card expires, you reach 90 days of unemployment, or you end your OPT early.

Application Process

ISS and USCIS steps to take to successfully complete your OPT application.

 

Cancel/Withdraw Application

What to do if you do not want to apply for OPT anymore or if you discover a mistake in your application.

OPT STEM Extension

If you earned an eligible STEM degree, you may be eligible for a 24-month extension.

Reporting Requirements

Your 10 day reporting requirement, optional SEVP Portal, and 90 day unemployment rule.

 

Employment Options

Review the types of practical training and employment acceptable on OPT, UW employment search tools, and the 90 day unemployment rule.

H-1B Cap Gap

If your employer files an H-1B petition on/after April 1st, you may be eligible.

If you are interested to learn more about your fellow Global Badgers’ OPT experiences, check out our OPT Alumni Profiles!